Over the last year, there has been a 12% spike in roadside drug arrests, with Virginia seeing a 6% increase. Many defense attorneys question why the numbers have increased. For instance, were more drugs being trafficked in this area, or was something different occurring? In particular, were the police perhaps using illegal methods to stop vehicles and conduct drug searches?
According to law enforcement officials, there is a pattern to the movement of drugs throughout the Northeast, and police are relying upon this in searching for potential drug violations. Using K-9s, the officers are able to find small bags of drugs that would be undetectable to a human. Together, these practices are allowing the police to more efficiently locate drugs.
Officers Need a Legitimate Reason to Stop You
One of the interesting things about these stops is that officers are relying on information that was gathered from patterns of drug movements. The officers readily admit in news stories that they have identified patterns and they follow these patterns to make their drug enforcement more successful. This is interesting because an officer must have probable cause to stop any particular vehicle. If the officer only stopped the vehicle on a hunch or previous pattern, that stop will be found to be illegal.
Why Is This Important?
Because evidence found during an illegal search cannot be used against you in court. Only evidence from legal searches can be used against you. For example, if an officer wanted to search a vehicle, based on a hunch, but that person had not committed a crime, then the stop would be illegal. But if the officer stopped a person because he had committed a crime, such as speeding, then the stop would be lawful.
After determining whether the stop was lawful, the next question would be whether the person was detained unlawfully. If the stop turned into an arrest without probable cause, then the search could be found unlawful for this second reason.
As you can see, there are many areas where a drug defense can present itself when an officer stops a vehicle.
In the Washington DC area, police have admitted to using patterns of practice to stop vehicles. This is the first key in establishing a pretextual stop. The second would be the facts of the particular case. If your case indicates that the police did not have a valid reason to stop you, in particular, then you may have been the victim of a pretextual stop.
In order to identify whether you were the victim of a pretextual stop, you should call us at (202) 393-0535 so that our Washington, D.C. criminal defense attorney can talk to you about your case and whether you have a strong legal argument to use as a defense to a drug crime.